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Open Features: Make Your Own Rug

Frank Healy recalls the days of oilcloth, linoleum and rag rugs.

The internet is a wonderful thing. Some people wonder how we ever managed without it. I am a member of a small chat forum which besides covering the usual items often throws up topics that evoke memories of years ago.

One member posted how she had made a rug from a kit that she had been given as a present. Besides getting a flood of responses from others who had done similar projects the talk quickly changed to other things.

Long before we had the nice modern homes of today, with our fitted carpets and stripped pine floors, we had stone floors covered with linoleum or oilcloth, the forerunners of the fashionable floor coverings of today.

Oilcloth was originally made from the canvass used for ship sails, painted with oil paint. It had many uses, which included covering tables and roofs, and in waterproof clothing.

You can see examples of Oilcloth at Beamish Museum where they have over 3,000 patterns. http://www.friendsofbeamish.co.uk/oilcloth/index.html

Linoleum was invented by Englishman Frederick Walton who patented his formula in 1860. In 1864 he formed the Linoleum Manufacturing Company and by 1869 the factory in Staines, England was exporting to Europe and the United States. In 1877, the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy, in Fife, became the largest producer of linoleum in the world, with no fewer than six floor cloth manufacturers in the town.

Because it is made of organic materials and is purportedly non-allergenic in nature, high quality linoleum and its modern equivalents are still in use in many places, especially in non-allergenic homes, hospitals and health care facilities.

But for warmth and comfort rag rugs were the order of the day and a quick trawl on the internet soon brought up lots of information. These days you can buy them as a kit but when I was a child I can remember cutting up old rags to make them.

A wooden frame and a piece of hessian were the other items needed. I seem to recall that someone had made the frame and used to rent it out. There was a waiting list to use the frame, giving you time to collect rags for when it was your turn.

These days rag rugs are considered to be stylish and fashionable. When I was a lad they were simply there to keep your feet warm.

If you want to have a go here's a site which will tell you how to build a frame then make your own rugs. http://www.stewardwood.org/resources/DIYpegloom.htm


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